Jeremiah 23:1. Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
What a dreadful woe this is upon all false shepherds, — those who profess to be sent of God to instruct the people, but who are not sent of God at all, whose labours only result in the scattering of the sheep, and destroying them, instead of gathering them to Christ for their salvation!
Jeremiah 23:2-4. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them; behold, I will visit upon you, the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds, and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
If the under-shepherds do not feed the flock, God himself will do it, for his own redeemed flock shall not be torn of wolves, nor left to perish in the lands whither they are driven. That great Shepherd of the sheep will do what others fail to do; but this does not take away from them their responsibility, and it must be the most solemn responsibility that rests on mortal man to profess to be a shepherd of souls, yet not to be sent of God.
Jeremiah 23:5. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
We are looking for that glorious King. Oh, that he would soon come! He is the great Monarch who shall absorb all other monarchies, for “he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Jeremiah 23:6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
What a glorious name for our King, who is made of God unto us “righteousness.” We may well rejoice to think that all the perfect righteousness of our great King and Lord shall belong to us, for this shall be his very name, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Jeremiah 23:7-8. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, the LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
There are better times for Israel than Israel has ever known as yet. The glories of Egypt and of the Red Sea are yet to be eclipsed. And there are better times in store for the Church of God than she has seen as yet.
Jeremiah 23:9. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets;
In Jeremiah’s day there was a set of men who pretended to be prophets, yet who contradicted the Lord’s servant at every point.
Jeremiah 23:9. All my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
Jeremiah had really received the Word of the Lord, and it seemed to overpower him; as that Word was full of terror, he felt like one who was overcome with wine.
Jeremiah 23:10-11. For the land is full of adulterers, for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
It is an awful thing when wickedness abounds even in the house of God; and it is to be feared that, in many places, the church of the present day is not clear in this matter.
Jeremiah 23:12. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness:
What an awful description of the doom of the profane prophets and priests! Slippery ways are bad enough in the light, but “their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness.”
Jeremiah 23:12-14. They shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing:
It was bad enough for Samaria to go astray. There was a mixed race there, so it was no wonder that their prophets were foolish; but oh! that in Jerusalem, the city of the great King, there should be false prophets, that was worst of all. This was the style of these prophets: —
Jeremiah 23:14-15. They commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
When preachers are bad, who wonders that people are worse? If the prophets go astray, how shall those who follow them find the right road?
Jeremiah 23:16. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain:
That is one mark of a false prophet, he makes you feel that you are a fine fellow, that there is something good in you: “They make you vain.”
Jeremiah 23:16. They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
That is another of the marks of a false prophet. Such a man as that is a great thinker; he has thought out his theology himself, he has imagined and invented it himself: “They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.”
Jeremiah 23:17. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
This is yet another mark of the false prophet. He always tries to smooth down the consequences of sin. “In the future state,” he says, “sin may occasion some temporary inconvenience, but all things will come right sooner or later.” That is a man sent of the devil, he is no servant of the living God. By these three tests you may prove who are the false prophets, they make you vain, they speak out of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of God, and they try to make it easy for you to sin by denying the greatness of the penalty attached to it.
Jeremiah 23:18-19. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
This is God’s Word; he does not prophesy smooth things to the wicked, he does not promise slight consequences of sin, but “a whirlwind” and “a grievous whirlwind.”
Jeremiah 23:20-22. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
False prophets are futile and vain, no good result comes of all their teaching; but oh! if they had known the Word of the Lord, if they had really been sent of God, what a difference there would have been! God grant that none of us may pretend to teach others what we have never learned, or to speak for God if God has never spoken to us!
Jeremiah 23:23-26. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophecy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
They profess to be prophets of their own heart, but “they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,” for that which comes out of man’s heart is like the heart itself, and man’s heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
Jeremiah 23:27-28. Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream;
Let him tell it as a dream, for it is nothing more than that. If he has dreamt it, let him say, “This is a dream that I have dreamed, but it is only a dream.”
Jeremiah 23:28. And he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.
Let him speak it as the Word of the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:28. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.
Man’s thoughts, man’s conceptions, at their very best, are but as chaff; only the Word of the Lord is the true wheat.
Jeremiah 23:29-30. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.
Borrowed sermons — pages of other people’s experience — fragments pulled from old or new divines — nothing of their own, nothing that God ever said to them, nothing that ever thrilled their hearts or swayed their souls, — God will not own such teaching as this.
Jeremiah 23:31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
They have not any hearts; they only use their tongues. They say, “He saith,” as if God had said to them something which he has never said.
Jeremiah 23:32. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
See how heavily God deals with the false prophets of Jeremiah’s time; and he will deal with equal severity with any who preach or teach anything other than the gospel of his blessed Son, — the pure revelation which is written in this Book. God grant that none of us may be deceived by them, for his dear Son’s sake! Amen.